A friend of mine loves steak. Can’t get enough of it, or so he thought. So, when we went to America, he obviously decided it was a great idea to order a huge 32oz Porterhouse. Maximum steaky goodness, a combination of his favourite cuts, bigger and better right? Well not quite.
As the rest of us enjoyed our meals, we watched him go from delight to drudgery and, ultimately, indigestion. He missed out on some incredible desserts too – his sad little expression was pretty funny to be entirely honest! It was also one of the clearest and most painful examples I’ve witnessed of an expression brought to life – you can have too much of even the things you love.
But given this is JumpCut, not ‘Prime Cuts’ let’s leave the steaks there and get back to the sizzle. Because since Christmas, and in playing my way through some of my crazy backlog, I’ve had the pleasure of snacking on some of my favourite gaming moments in years. I’ve revived a Blind Forest as Ori, battled demons of all kinds in Hellblade, and explored more than just my physical surroundings in Firewatch. I’ve puzzled my way through a childhood friendship, travelled a king’s quest, lived a life ‘before the storm’ and learnt what it takes to be a pilot in Titanfall 2.
It’s been a fantastic whirl of experiences and emotions – jumping between fresh settings, genres and mechanics so regularly that they were constantly able to surprise and delight me. If variety is the spice of life, the past few months have been a taste explosion and what has made it possible was that none of the games I’ve played took over ten hours, some as few as three or four. Had any of them hogged more of my time it would have simply kept me away from the next adventure – and that would have meant some of them still sitting in my ‘pile of shame’, worlds unexplored, joy undiscovered.
True, as the credits rolled on many of these games, I found myself wanting more – but I see that as something to celebrate rather than criticise. Would the stories have had the impact and the fun have lasted if spread out over a longer period? Not in my experience – where repetition starts to creep in, ideas can run dry and diminishing returns start to make it a slog. Instead, the developers get a little time off and hopefully some well-earned bonuses and I get to look forward to a sequel or whatever they come up with next.
I’d certainly take brevity over the sort of humdrum filler that seems to pad out many open worlds at the moment. Would my breathless sprint through the main story of Mirror’s Edge Catalyst have been enhanced by breaking away to tick off hours of pointless and repetitive side quests? Definitely not (and, incidentally, neither would it have made any narrative sense for my character). And anyway, if I wanted to grind through mundane, repetitive tasks I’d just work late, so thanks but no thanks for that.
When I do next choose to go big, I know there are some exceptions out there just waiting to show me that you can have both quality and quantity. In my case, it’ll probably be The Witcher 3 – a game whose icon has been calling to me from my dashboard since I bought it a frankly ridiculous three years ago! I’ve seen the reviews, I loved the previous game and I am a sucker for rich, fantasy worlds – which is why I bought it in the first place. I’m also confident it’s amazing, but if the main quest really is 50 hours long that’s pretty intimidating as it means potentially weeks or even months of playing barely anything else. Oh, and I also own the 30 or so hours of expansions already because, well, I’m basically an idiot.
What to play next is kind of a big decision, right? Made bigger, perhaps, as my gaming time becomes increasingly squeezed and feels increasingly precious. With subscriptions and streaming services, we are blessed with more high-quality entertainment options to fill our time, all instantly available and constantly growing. Work is a necessary inconvenience. My partner is understanding but is at least keen to see me now and again! I have family, friends, hobbies and a whole (real) world out there that’s almost as cool to explore as Hyrule, Midgard or Middle-Earth.
No, I think there’s a reason they give Oscars for editing and it’s true that less is sometimes more. It’s a skill to tell your story in as short a time as needed. So, here’s to the game-makers who keep it snappy, leave the audience wanting more and give us the time to go on all our other adventures – whatever those may be.